Final Score: 8.8

    ★★★★★ Plot

    ★★★★☆ Characterization

    ★★★★★ Writing

    ★★★☆☆ Star-Wars-iness

    ★★★★★ Personal Enjoyment


This book review contains spoilers for those who have not yet read Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn.

Personal Enjoyment: 5

I really enjoyed this one. Purchased it a few years back and never got around to reading it. Once I picked it up and got a few chapters in I was hooked! It takes a little while to get to know the characters and get your bearings on how everyone is connected, but when the action gets going it really snowballs. Definitely kept my attention – I flew through the latter portion of this book in record time. Tense!

Plot: 5

In this book Han Solo leads an Ocean’s Eleven style heist to break into the safe belonging to a Black Sun leader. It’s full of fun twists, as any good thriller should be, and if you know anything about the Black Sun then you’ll know what Han’s team is up against. The conflict is clearly laid out – the team has a general idea of what they’re stealing and soon find out the situation gets even hairier. At the same time two additional plots are being told from different perspectives of the caper, which add even more intrigue to how things will play out. It’s enjoyable witnessing the obstacles stack up before the characters, and even though the expected cliche of a typical safe heist is palpable in parts, there are twists that surprise and keep the reader engaged along the way.

The pacing of the story feels natural and unrushed, and I only thought the story dragged a bit at the beginning when we’re getting the full backstory on characters. I enjoy Zahn’s descriptions in general, and felt that this only added to the pacing and immersiveness of each scene. It is also written in a way that allows you to read at a quick clip when you’re excited to discovers how the events play out in the final act, which was a lot of fun.

Characterization: 4

The characterization is interesting in that I became most vested in Han pulling it off, followed by his-pseudo teammate/employer’s motives, and even empathize with the protagonists in places. All the characters are real in their own way, but I wish some of them had been utilized or fleshed out a bit more. This is understandable given how many characters it takes to rip off Black Sun, but one or two of the more interesting ones don’t get their page-time’s worth and read like they’re only included as a plot device. It did take a while for the Imperial characters introduced at the start of the story to come back around, and I found myself rereading the intro once they did. All the dialogue is natural, and it’s always nice to have a bit of banter from the classic characters like Han and Lando.

Writing: 5

There’s always been something about Zahn’s writing that I identify with, and I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. When I was in my early 20s I read the Thrawn Trilogy and absolutely connected with it as if it were a third trilogy following ROTJ. Character POVs are consistent and believable in how they think and respond to their environment, which is especially important in this story, given how many things are happening simultaneously for the various characters. The timeline sync is key and Zahn does a nice job staying consistent. Basics like tone and character voice feel authentic; nothing negative to distract from readability on that front.

Star-Wars-iness: 3

This is definitely not a typical Star Wars book, in that it doesn’t feature Jedi or Sith, force users, or lightsabers (mostly). The classic characters feel the same as they usually are which keeps you in the Star Wars mindset, and if you’ve read other stories featuring the character Winter and her force-like abilities then you already may feel some Star-Wars-iness in her. There’s not really much happening in space throughout the whole story and the plot remains on a single planet, but the presence of Black Sun and their pheromone abilities definitely lend to the intrigue of other-worldly powers, which is somewhat akin to dark side force abilities. There’s also a bit of wonder in the spectacles brought on by a festival thrown by the Black Sun characters, which is not always fully explained in detail, so that’s fun, too. I think there are enough speeders and detonators, blasters and data cards to call the gadget arsenal pretty full in this one, adding to the SW-iness and maintaining an otherworldly vibe, but some of the more impactful galaxy themes would have been nice.

Summary

Overall, Zahn set out to tell an interesting heist story through the eyes of some of the most beloved Star Wars characters, and I believe he pulled it off as well as, if not better than expected. The plan the group sets up may seem contrived or over the top to some, but reading how the scenarios and unexpected twists play out is more than worth it. Everything is wrapped up at the end, and the surprises last until the very last, somewhat controversial last line of the book. No spoilers on that one. :) If you like crime drama and want a fun jaunt through Star Wars town, this is the book for you.

-Will Reinhardt